The recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile have prompted the FBI and National Center for Disaster Fraud to take action against scammers. The National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) was founded after Hurricane Katrina in response to the number of fraudulent activity taking advantage of well meaning citizens motivated to donate.
After the Haiti earthquake, fraudulent websites and scam artists once again, began their activities. The FBI cautioned citizens to use wisdom when choosing charities to donate and established a toll free number where citizens could report suspicious activities. The NCDF and FBI provided similar advice following the earthquake in Chile.
The FBI recommends that consumers contact 1-866-720-5721 to report suspicious activity regarding Haitian or Chilean earthquake fraud.
Those who wish to donate in the weeks and months to come should continue to follow the FBI’s guidelines and should donate to reputable charities, particularly those that are established and have a long standing, good reputation.
Citizens should be wary of unsolicited emails and avoid clicking on links as they may be computer viruses. Social networking sites are new venues where scammers lurk; avoid sending donations to people who state they are earthquake victims or survivors online as they may be scam artists.
Some fraudulent organizations will use names similar to those of legitimate charities in an effort to confuse and mislead the public, avoid them and research any charity before making a donation.
Avoid emails that are sent with attachments. These emails may appear as if they are showing progress reports and photos from an earthquake ravaged country but instead may infect your computer with a virus.
Do not give cash donations but make your contribution via credit or debit card to legitimate charities. If writing a check, do not make it out to an individual as this is a sign of a scam. Legitimate charities will not ask for cash or money to be wired over the Internet.
Those who would like help finding a legitimate charity may visit the non-profit site: Charity Navigator. You may always donate to the Red Cross as well.
If you suspect that you have been the victim of fraud, you may contact the NCDF at 1-866-720-5721. To report suspicious e-Mails you may file a complaint with the FBI here: www.ic3.gov.